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Bertrand Russell and the issue of preemptive war

[1]

By Carlos Escudé (for Safe Democracy)

Carlos Escudé believes that the possibility of a theocratic and fundamentalist regime such as the Iranian possession of nuclear arms, returns us to the debates of 1945 and 1949 in the US, between those who initially supported the preemptive war against the Soviet Union –including the pacifist philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell– as well as those more idealistic who proclaimed that the uranium of the world should be managed by the UN (Baruch Plan). Escudé returns to these debates again by reanalyzing those old discussions regarding the possibility of the Soviets utlizing the nuclear bomb. In the process, he reveals why such debates nowadays are more relevant than ever, especially in the context of the Iranian threat.


Carlos Escudé has a PhD in Political Science from Yale University. He leads the think tank “Centro de Estudios Internacionales y de Educación para la Globalización en la Universidad, CEMA” (Buenos Aires). He has been advisor of the Argentinean Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

THE POSSIBILITY THAT A THEOCRATIC AND FUNDAMENTALIST regime that blackmails the West with an army of 40.000 suicide warriors who have acquired nuclear weapons, brings to mind the debates that took place between 1945 and 1949, when the Americans held an atomic monopoly.

Although such a monopoly no longer exists, there still remains an oligopoly constituted by the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus three de facto nuclear states that have never signed the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

THE NUCLEAR MONOPOLY
Iran would be the first member of the NPT to be allowed to forsake its commitments, and hence there is an analogy between the present situation and the one faced before the USSR broke the American monopoly.

In 1945, enlightened individuals were more conscious than today of the possibility that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction could unleash a nuclear holocaust, leading to the extermination of the human species. Hence, the Western powers proposed that all of the world’s uranium be administered by the United Nations, which for this purpose would have police powers everywhere except in the United States. This was the so-called Baruch Plan, which the USSR obviously rejected.

Once the Soviet attitude was clear, some prominent Europeans proposed using the American atomic monopoly to maintain the monopoly.

[2] ADVOCACY FOR PREEMPTIVE WAR
Best known among these was Winston Churchill, but far less remembered is the fact that Bertrand Russell, perhaps the greatest British pacifist of the 20th Century, loudly advocated for preemptive war up to the time when Soviet Russia finally acquired the Bomb.

In order to activate the debate, I will reproduce some of Russell’s arguments for preemptive war, and I invite readers to mentally replace Soviet Union for Iran, and Communists for Islamist radicals, every time these words come up.

UTOPIC DISARM
In a 1945 article published in Cavalcade and titled Humanity’s Last Chance, the great logician argued that asking the United States to disarm